“Don’t Call Us ‘Pro-Abortion’ ― We’re ‘Pro-Choice’!”

There is great power in the labels we select for ourselves, as well in the ones we apply to our opposition.  One of the greatest marketing triumphs of the abortion movement was to call itself “pro-choice.”

"words" with letters

Origin of the “Pro-Choice” Label

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founding members of NARAL, wrote, “I remember laughing when we made those slogans up.  We were looking for some sexy, catchy slogans to capture public opinion.  They were very cynical slogans then, just as all of these slogans today are very, very cynical.”1

They were certainly cynical, but they worked, and that was all that mattered to the abortion strategists.  The “pro-choice” label allowed them to completely bypass the bloody reality of abortion and focus on freedom, a value that we all cherish.  As writer Tom Flynn explains:

Perhaps it wouldn’t be necessary to convince millions of people that abortion was licit.  Perhaps abortion could be reduced to a secondary issue and subordinated to some value that already enjoyed wide acceptance.  This was the genesis of “pro‑choice,” which quickly displaced the movement’s earlier, explicitly pro‑abortion platform.  It was a packaging breakthrough.  Why struggle with deep moral conflicts if a quick appeal to pluralism will co‑opt millions into supporting abortion rights despite their continued feeling that abortion is wrong?2

Dozens of pro-abortion groups have even incorporated this slogan into their names.  We have NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Feminists for Choice, Catholics for [a Free] Choice, Rock for Choice, Medical Students for Choice, Republicans for Choice, Center for Choice, and on and on.

abortion clinic escort

Lately, however, the “pro-choice” label has worn thin in the face of relentless pro-life educational efforts and continuing publicity about butchers like Kermit Gosnell.  And, of course, there is the horror of the abortion procedure itself.  As feminist Naomi Wolf says, “When someone holds up a model of a six-month-old fetus and a pair of surgical scissors, we say, ‘choice,’ and we lose.”3

In 1995, 56% of Americans described themselves as “pro-choice,” and only 33% as “pro-life.”  In 2011, “pro-life” was in the majority by a margin of 49% to 45%.

This massive shift in public opinion has spurred abortion advocates into repackaging their message.  The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which runs the largest chain of abortion mills in the country, has announced that it will no longer use the “pro-choice” label.  Jordan Bean of PP’s student group Vox showed us what the future holds when she said that “The terms pro-choice and pro-life are outdated, and the conversation is too complicated for that.  You don’t have to put yourself in a box ― it’s more personal than that.”4

Tarek Rizk said of his group:

It’s important that NARAL Pro-Choice America also see “choice” in much broader terms.  Choice means having access to birth control and choosing when to make the personal and financial commitment to bring a child into the world.  It means taking steps to ensure you can provide for and protect that child to the best of your ability.5

You know for certain that the pro-abortionists are up to no good when they try to make the issue so complex that nobody can even think about it.  But history demonstrates that those who attempt to obscure the truth are hiding great evil.  As Frances Kissling, longtime President of Catholics for a Free Choice, has said, “Abortion is never a single issue.  It is a complex tapestry of all the things we believe about race, class, gender, and justice.  It is also about sexuality, relationships, and love.”6

The intent here is obvious ― to make the reader feel confused and uncertain, and therefore frozen into inaction.

Despite all of this discussion, it is unlikely that the abortion movement will abandon the label “pro-choice” anytime soon, at least not in favor of a confusing jumble of ideas.  Strategists know that their labels must be short and punchy; anything less will appear evasive.  Therefore, pro-lifers should be able to respond to the “pro-choice” slogan effectively in order to be able to educate their friends, co-workers and others who would like to discuss the abortion issue.

The Problem with the “Pro-Choice” Label

The very term “pro‑choice” shows that the pro‑abortion crowd doesn’t really believe its own rhetoric.  They know that the word “ABORTION” conjures up very unpleasant and graphic images indeed, and so they desperately dodge the more accurate term “pro‑abortion.”

words "pro-choice"

On the other hand, many pro‑life activists are content with the term “anti‑abortion,” because it more accurately describes a movement that opposes in moral principle the selfish acts of killing that go on all around us.

Not surprisingly, the pro‑abortionists are echoing the language of our country’s pre‑Civil War slavery advocates, who insisted that they were not “pro‑slavery.”  The slavers did not want anyone else to “impose their morality” on the slave states.  All they wanted was freedom to follow their own consciences.7

Additionally, so‑called “pro‑choice” groups show that they are truly pro‑abortion by their actions.  As liberals like to say, “What you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying!”

All pro‑abortion groups insist that others, even those who object to abortion, pay for them with their tax dollars.  Is this “pro‑choice”?

I am not aware of a single so-called “pro‑choice” group condemning China’s policy of forced abortions — many of which are performed in the last trimester — and forced sterilization and mandatory birth control.  Incredibly, leaders of many major pro‑abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women (NOW), have gone on record as approving of China’s one-child program, and have even suggested designing a similar coercive program for the United States!8

flag of china

This is certainly not “pro-choice.”

Pro‑abortionists not only struggle to keep prenatal killing legal through all nine months of pregnancy, they try to eliminate all other options as well.  They have done all they can to demonize and shut down pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, which offer women real alternatives and help.

Every major “pro‑choice” group also opposes all informed consent laws as a matter of policy.  Making a medical decision when in possession of only half of the available information is not a choice; it’s being led to the slaughter like ignorant cattle.

Is this “pro‑choice?”

Finally, whenever any legislature or individual proposes any law or bill or initiative that will provide safer abortion clinics, ultrasonography, or even a dignified burial for aborted preborn babies, the pro‑abortionists feel compelled to fight even those measures that would have no impact whatsoever on abortion.  The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts even bitterly opposed a Massachusetts bill that would have created a public education program to educate pregnant women about fetal development and the impacts of drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse on their preborn babies.  This fanatical opposition even to bills that would preserve the health of wanted preborn children is not “pro-choice”; it is hard-core pro-abortion.

Final Thoughts

The most certain way to refute the pro‑choice slogan is to ask the pro‑abortionist what he or she does to help mothers carry their babies to term.  After all, that’s what the term “pro‑choice” implies:  Support for all of the choices the mother might make.  If the pro‑abortionist is an activist whose efforts are entirely directed towards making sure abortion remains “safe and legal,” then his actions are not consistent with his words.

Finally, we must stress what is being chosen when someone uses this slogan ― the killing of a defenseless and innocent unborn child.  There is no “right to choose” something that is wrong.  Racists cannot claim a “right to choose” oppressing minorities.  Anti-Semites cannot claim a “right to choose” killing Jews.  And, as society tells us, people who dislike homosexuals cannot say that they have a “right to choose” to physically assault them.

Real choice means that all available options are ethical and do not harm others.  When we choose evil, everyone suffers.

+ Endnotes

[1] Reformed abortionist Bernard Nathanson, M.D., quoted in “‘Pro‑Choice’ Co‑Founder Rips Abortion Industry.” Whistleblower Magazine [WorldNetDaily], December 20, 2002.

[2] Humanist writer Tom Flynn. “‘Pro‑Choice:’  Wrong Turn for Abortion Rights?”  Free Inquiry (“An International Secular Humanist Magazine”), Winter 1991/92, pages 6 and 7.

[3] Naomi Wolf. “Pro-Choice and Pro-Life.”  The New York Times, April 3, 1997.

[4] Jordan Bean of the Marshall College, West Virginia chapter of Planned Parenthood’s student group Vox, quoted in Ben Johnson. “West Virginia College Students Overwhelmingly Reject Planned Parenthood Campus Group.”  LifeSite Daily News, February 4, 2013.

[5] Tarek Rizk, Communications Director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “On the Language of Choice.”  NARAL’s “Blog for Choice,” January 17, 2013.

[6] Frances Kissling, former President of `Catholics’ for [a Free] Choice, quoted in “The Future of Roe v. Wade: ”  Ms. Magazine, January/February 1998, page 77.

[7] George Anastaplo. Abraham Lincoln [Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield], 2001, page 173.

[8] Some examples: “China is the most extraordinary success.  Irrespective of media speculation about that [population control] program, on the whole this is carried out in a very responsible way” [International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).  Family Planning World, Volume 2, Number 2, March/April 1992].

“We are going to have to face ― as China has faced ― the policy of controlling the size of families, and to assume that we can go on without facing this responsibility is totally irresponsible…. I consider the Chinese government’s [population control] policy among the most intelligent in the world…. it is a policy limited to the heavily overpopulated areas and it is an attempt to feed the people of China.  I find it very intelligent” [Molly Yard, former president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), on the March 1989 “Oprah Winfrey Show”].

Brian Clowes, PhD

Dr. Brian Clowes has been HLI’s director of research since 1995 and is one of the most accomplished and respected intellectuals in the international pro-life movement. Best known as author of the most exhaustive pro-life informational resource volume The Facts of Life, and for his Pro-Life Basic Training Course, Brian is the author of nine books and over 500 scholarly and popular articles, and has traveled to 70 countries on six continents as a pro-life speaker, educator and trainer.


  1. Kandas Babb on May 3, 2022 at 2:07 PM

    If every Pro-Life individual could be a criminal judge for one month whose job is to spend every day listening to the horror stories about infants and children that were not wanted before or after birth. It is an alarming tragedy that they had the misfortune of being born. Their lives consist of constant suffering. They live with every form of abuse one can imagine including, physically, sexually, and emotionally. They are neglected, hungry and malnourished. To reiterate, they have never been wanted, nor will they ever be wanted. Most of these children are born into dire poverty, often addicted to meth or heroin. Most never know who their father is and often their mother doesn’t know either. Many have several siblings just like them.
    Alas, the alarming majority of these babies are black. Why are we not understanding the blatant discrimination our government will be guilty of towards black women, as well as any woman in this situation by denying them the right to an abortion. How can any Christian or individual with high morals believe it is right to further contribute to the destruction of the life of the already traumatized, unfortunate pregnant victim by forcing her to give birth to a fetus that is severely deformed physically or mentally or is the result of rape by her father, stepfather or any other man
    There are far more horrible things that can happen to a fetus than to be aborted. In many situations it is the humane thing to do.

    • HLI Staff on May 3, 2022 at 3:15 PM

      Kandas, Adults who have “risen above” difficult circumstances in childhood would not agree abortion is the better option. There is nothing more heinous than to take the life of an innocent human being. Murder at any stage of life is the highest form of abuse.

  2. Michele on October 20, 2020 at 9:22 AM

    Taylor – you are repeating rhetoric you’ve been told by the abortion industry designed to mislead you so you will support them in the killing of millions of innocent human beings.

    They tell you “it’s not a child,” “it’s not a baby,” “it’s a fetus,” it’s just a clump of cells…” But those are all just descriptive terms, and they avoid the true question: is it a human being?

    Dehumanization is the very same tactic the Nazis used to justify their killing of the Jews. It’s the same tactic slave owners used to justify the enslavement of Africans. It’s been used by the perpetrators of every mass genocide in history.

    And abortion is no different.

    Killing innocent human beings is wrong. Nobody has the “right” to make that “choice”, no matter what their circumstances, opinions, or beliefs.

  3. Vic on July 16, 2019 at 7:50 PM

    For anyone reading up on abortions because you are faced with a difficult decision please DONT get an abortion. Im not going to try to convince you that it is morally wrong even though I think it is. Im going to tell you how important it is for you to keep your child. You WILL regret it if you have the abortion. You will always wonder, “What if?”. You will feel guilty and you will be sad.
    I had my first son when I was 20. I have epilepsy and was on Depakote when I got pregnant. That medicine can cause spinabifida in babies so I had to go off it immediately. I was having seizures every month until I had him because I couldnt find a medicine that worked for me, especially with my pregnancy hormones. I couldve died or been injured or gotten brain damage from the seizures. The doctors even told me to go back to depakote because it worked, even though it could hurt my son. I didnt go back on it though. I didnt want to risk hurting my child. Even though I was 20 when I had him (19 and in college while pregnant), I never even considered abortion.
    I eventually found medicine that worked after I had him and even though I didnt have many seizures during my 2nd and 3rd pregnancies, I was having many other medical problems and was deemed high risk for all pregnancies.
    While I was never debating whether or not to have an abortion, I can say that I know other people wanted it for me. I cant imagine ending the life any of my sons now that I have met them. It hurts me to even think about that or about other babies being killed through abortion. Mothers who are killing their children dont even realize what they are doing and it is so sad for me to see. I wish there was a way that I could put my feelings and emotions on paper so other people could feel them and understand, but writing this is the closest I can get to that since emotions cant be felt on paper. I wish I could do something to stop women from doing this to these children but all I can do is try to explain something that only a mother can feel. Becoming a mother really changes a persepctive and in many cases amplifies feelings. For example, the holocaust has always made me sad, but after becoming a mother I think of all those children who went through such torture and couldnt even have their parents comfort them and it is really unbearable to think about. I think about abortion and how these babies dont even have anyone there with them to hold their hands as they die and it kills me. I do believe that babies are babies from conception because I have held a fetus in my hand and I know what I felt. I had a miscarriage very early on and I held it. I can still feel it in my hand years later. I remember thinking what a waste of life it was. I remember thinking this baby was a person and then all of a sudden it just wasnt anymore. It was devastating and disgusting at the same time, that innocent life could just end like that. Babies should not die that way. Old people should die, not babies. I hate to think about people choosing tgat for their babies.
    For anyone who is trying to make the choice to keep their child or not, please keep it. Even if you cant handle it after it is born you can bring it to a safe haven and it will go to a loving family. There are waiting lists for people trying to adopt infants. There are ways that mothers can give their infant up for adoption and still be in their childrens life. Mothers can even choose the parents to adopt the baby.
    For people who are deciding whether or not to keep their baby who has a problem, speak to a handicapped child’s parents. They will tell you that it is hard but worth it.
    I recently read an article that spoke to me. It asked, isnt it more compassionate to hold a baby in your arms while it dies than to have it sucked out by a vaccuun. Regardless of the method it would die from an abortion, I do feel that after seeing my children, if I was to have a child with spinabifida who I knew would die after it was born, there isnt any way I would ever want to do anything but hold that baby in my arms as it passed away. I couldnt imagine turning my back on the children I have now and I would feel that I turned my baby on my child if I aborted it.
    Please dont view abortion as a political thing. It isnt. It is a human life and it deserves to be born.

    • Taylor Ray on October 3, 2020 at 1:56 AM

      Please keep your opinion to yourself. No one else needs it. It’s up to the women who is pregnant to decide if she wants an abortion or not. You shouldn’t be trying to convince her otherwise. I’m sorry for your experience and your loss, but that is not the same thing as having an abortion. A fetus is not a child. It’s not living and breathing. What if a women who wanted to have an abortion saw this? It would make her feel guilty about having control over her body and for getting rid of something that isn’t even born yet. It’s up to the woman and no one else.

  4. Melissa Baker on April 11, 2019 at 2:02 AM

    Pro-Choice equals with Pro-death

    • Taylor Ray on October 3, 2020 at 1:52 AM

      Pro-choice is also getting the rights to your own body. It’s not pro-death because your not killing anything. A fetus isn’t a child. It might grow up to be one, but it’s not living and breathing. Women should have the right to decide if they want to get an abortion or not. It’s their decision, no one else’s. What if a women who wanted to have an abortion saw this comment? How do you think she would feel? Your making her feel guilty for having the right to her body and getting rid of something that isn’t even born yet.

      • Dik on November 15, 2022 at 12:14 PM

        When does that glob of cells become a human? A governor recently stated a fetus that was delivered full term could be “aborted” i the woman decided at that time she didn’t want it, so are you for 4th trimester abortions? Does this glob of cells become human when it is old enough to be taken from its parents and put in the government sponsored indoctrination schools, or maybe when its old enough to vote? When does it become human?

    • Asdfyte Hretyut on June 24, 2022 at 3:15 PM


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